Apple and its underwhelmed audience

applestage1 Apple and its underwhelmed audienceImagine a person who’s underwhelmed by everything you tell him. You ran the mile in five minutes? Big deal. He doesn’t raise an eyebrow for anything over four. You scored a scholarship to Yale? Meh. Was Harvard full? You designed a new car that gets 100 miles to the gallon? Cool, but does it fly?

Odds are you wouldn’t associate with a person like that for very long, but what if you didn’t have a choice? What if you were continually subjected to the dramatic sighing and dismissive shrugs? And what if there were no end in sight?

That’s how Apple must feel when it takes the stage to show off a new product. If that gadget does anything less than carve out a new niche, or at least revolutionize an existing one, and simultaneously cure cancer, the company’s criticized by throngs of media and consumers who can’t believe they wasted their time on such uninspired crap.

Not that Apple, now the most valuable company in the world, needs our sympathy. Nor does the negativity seem to affect the company’s bottom line. But it doesn’t deserve such ruthless criticism, and I have five words for the unimpressed crowd holding them to that insane standard: What more do you want?

Today, exactly a week after Apple unveiled its latest iPad, a quick Google search turns up loads of articles that disparage the new tablet for its so-what factor. Apple took the easy route, they say. It turned its back on innovation and offered up a tablet that resembles its predecessor everywhere it counts.

Except it didn’t and they’re full of shit.

Apple stepped up its newest product in almost every way. The new iPad’s Retina display has four times the pixels of the iPad 2 and a higher resolution than anything else the company offers; its A5X processor has a quad-core GPU that delivers four times the performance; RAM has swelled to 1GB; a 5-megapixel rear camera replaces 720p optics; Bluetooth 4.0’s in play; 4G LTE connectivity’s on the table; and a new, more-powerful battery means all those specs won’t have users running for the nearest outlet any sooner.

ipad performance Apple and its underwhelmed audience

So what gives? Why aren’t more people batting an eye at nearly across-the-board improvements to a tablet that already had the industry by the balls?

To my mind, the murmurs can be traced back to two things: a rumor mill that nailed every detail of the new iPad ahead of its launch, which, of course, eliminated the wow factor; and an audience that’s been spoiled to the point of feeling entitled to revolutionary products at every turn. The first point is fairly obvious, so let’s examine the second.

Consumers and media alike have come to expect the impossible from Cupertino. Whoever holds the mic at Apple’s semi-annual events, whether it’s Tim Cook or Jonathan Ive or any one of a number of senior engineers, that person is expected to announce something completely unprecedented. He owes it to his audience, they’d have you believe.

It doesn’t matter to those sitting in judgement that such a pace is unsustainable, that no company, no matter how innovative or full of brilliant minds, could come up with something totally new on a consistent basis. And even if it could, it would be raked over the coals for it. And rightly so. Because consumers would never have a chance to get their heads around a novel product before another one dropped in their laps.

Why, then, do they ask that of Apple and skewer the company when it can’t deliver?

Put simply, they’ve been spoiled by Apple’s major innovations. They remember the iPods, iPhones, and iPads, but they forget that those products were introduced years apart, and that more often than not, Apple, as does any company, touches up its existing lineup.

They’ve also enshrouded Apple in myth so thoroughly that the company can’t possibly live up to its legend. A story about its insistence on secrecy and security, for instance, leads to speculation that it must be hatching something otherworldly, and before you know it, Apple’s up there with the Golden Goose, and One Infinite Loop’s revered as if it were Willy Wonka’s fanciful chocolate factory.

But it’s not those things, and it’s unfair to measure it as if it were. It’s better and fairer to measure Apple and its brainchildren against the competition, and when you do that, when you compare it to the Sonys and Samsungs and Googles, it’s hard to come away unimpressed.

Not that I’m holding my breath for that day. Unless I’ve missed my guess, Apple’s time under an unforgiving microscope has only just begun.

And I suppose that’s strangely fitting. Apple’s audience has become as critical as the company’s late founder.

“Steve, I spent all year on this, what do you think?”

“It’s shit.”

Current-gen game consoles now in more than half of U.S. homes

cross platform games Current gen game consoles now in more than half of U.S. homes

Think console gaming’s on its way out? Think again. In a testament to the staying power of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony’s Playstation 3, and Nintendo’s Wii, not to mention the success of each company’s efforts to dust off its console mid-life, Nielsen found that as of the end of 2011, 56 percent of American households had at least one of the systems. That’s a 6 percent improvement over the previous year, and considering the growing appeal of those consoles as media hubs, as well as their more unified experiences, it’s reasonable to think they could enjoy an even more successful 2012 — despite upcoming replacements.

HP design chief rejects idea that HP’s laptops were inspired by Apple

If HP’s new laptops resemble certain Apple products, it’s not because HP shamelessly ripped off its Cupertino-based rival. Instead, it’s because contrary to popular belief, there are only so many ways to skin a cat. At least, that’s what Stacy Wolff, HP’s vice president of industrial design, would have you believe. Wolff told an audience gathered at a conference in Shanghai today that any similarities are coincidental rather than intentional.

I think if you look at the new Spectre XT, there are similarities in a way, not due to Apple but due to the way technologies developed. Apple may like to think that they own silver, but they don’t. In no way did HP try to mimic Apple. In life there are a lot of similarities.

Wolff had harsher words for Apple’s faithful:

Yeah, fanboys are wonderful, right? You guys gotta be my fanboys, come on. [Laughs] I think the big thing for me is that we’re doing what’s right for the customers, so one of the things is by going with the isolated island style of keyboard, there’s only so many ways to do it, right? If I put it on a black surface you’d go, ‘Oh you didn’t copy.’ If I put it on a silver surface, ‘Oh you’re copying.” How can that be? You know, it’s a change of color, there’s no intent to mimic or to follow. What you have is a common theme of island style keyboard, use of silver, wedge design. So if I measure things on a macro level, well, you know, maybe you can judge it that way. I don’t.

Hats off to HP. In the process of defending the design of its devices, the company has also managed to copy Samsung, which has relied on similar, and equally unbelievable, explanations for its doppelganger lineup.

Source: Engadget

Apple’s got something for you to touch, all right: iPad HD might feature textures that can be felt

In three hours, Apple will unveil its next iPad and lay bare a spec sheet that’s been guessed at for months. Now, with just hours left, you’d think we could cool our heels, but we think there’s room for a final, juicy rumor:  The iPad HD’s display could feature haptic feedback, which, crazy as it sounds, would enable the tablet’s touchscreen to simulate different textures – textures that could be felt. This according to AppleInsider, which reports Apple hooked up with Senseg and possibility incorporated that company’s haptic feedback technology into its latest tablet. If true, this would certainly back up Apple’s cryptic claim that it has something for us to touch.

AppleInsider had this to say:

Senseg’s technology changes the surface of a touchscreen device through electric fields so that a user’s fingertips can feel complex, context-sensitive textures to aid their input. It can make a surface feel smooth or rough to the touch based on what is presented on a device’s screen.

Most Apple stores out of stock of Apple TV

Roughly 98 percent of Apple’s American retail stores are currently tapped out of Apple TVs, according to MacRumors. Meanwhile, their online counterpart continues to list the devices as  “in stock.” The sudden shortage at Apple’s brick-and-mortars backs up rumors that Apple will reveal an all-new Apple TV alongside its next iPad on Wednesday. Sources suspect Apple TV 3.0 will feature 1080p streaming and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.

Source: MacRumors

Google revamps its Android Market, calls it Google Play

Gone are Google’s Android Market, Music, and Books. In their place is the all-new Google Play, a unified, one-stop-shop for all the digital content the company peddles.  Apple’s iTunes provides a similarly convenient content hub, but Google has taken the all-under-one-roof model one step further, calling Google Play “an evolution of Android Market.”

CNET: Next iPad to be called iPad HD

Apple’s next-generation tablet won’t sport the widely reported iPad 3 moniker, according to CNET. Instead, the impending tablet will be called the iPad HD — a name that plays up the device’s double-resolution Retina display. Though CNET’s story seems to fly in the face of conventional iPad wisdom, Rival outlets Gizmodo and VentureBeat concur with the prediction.

Source: CNET

Microsoft poised for tablet resurgence

Two year’s after Apple’s iPad came on the scene and took the fledgling tablet market by storm, competitors are still racking their brains for an answer, and with the exception of Amazon and its months-old Kindle Fire, they’ve yet to come up with one that can distract consumers from the hottest selling tablets around. Now, with Apple poised to unveil its latest iPad, few would argue the balance of power is in danger of shifting, but what about down the road? What about Microsoft?

If you follow iPad periodical The Daily, or any other tech-obsessed outlet, for that matter, surely you noticed February’s he-said, she-said drama surrounding Microsoft’s apparently imminent Office app for iOS, and if you did, you’d be forgiven for thinking Redmond had given up on hardware and would instead ride Apple’s coattails. But that ignores another Microsoft development that’s dominated headlines lately: Windows 8, specifically the company’s just-released Consumer Preview. Though a final, fully realized build is likely at least 6 months away, Microsoft’s highly anticipated operating system, one that was downloaded more than a million times in 24 hours in beta form, is that company’s, or any company’s, best chance to date of rivaling Apple’s iPad.

Windows 8, you see, will roll out across desktops and tablets. That’s a uniformity Android with its oft-criticized fragmentation won’t be able to match, and although Apple’s forthcoming Mountain Lion, due out in late June, will look to blur the line that’s so far separated desktops from mobile devices, it won’t do it to the degree that Microsoft intends. That’s because the software company isn’t planning to simply share features between distinct operating systems, as will Apple. Rather, Microsoft hopes to introduce nearly identical experiences (or as close as the hardware will allow) to each.

windows8tablet laptop Microsoft poised for tablet resurgence

If Microsoft pulls that off, and we have no reason to suspect it won’t, it’ll make a very powerful argument to embrace whatever tablets it simultaneously debuts. And it’ll do that for the same reason consumers have gone gaga for all things iOS: people like intuitiveness and familiarity; they like unwrapping a new product and not having to learn the ropes. And that’s precisely the sort of seamlessness Microsoft’s next tablets have in store for the hundreds of millions of consumers who are bound to line up for Windows 8 for desktop (if Windows 7’s reception is any indication).

They’ll adopt Windows 8 for desktop in droves because, let’s face it, Windows is still far and away the biggest desktop draw, and once they’ve become comfortable with that, a tablet that provides the same experience on the go will be the logical next step.

Weeks ago, we predicted this round will go to the iPad, and lest you think we’re all over the map, that hasn’t changed. But our gut tells us 2013 could be a very different story.